Top 50 Falcons: No. 34, Ray Buchanan

Ray Buchanan, Atlanta Falcons
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Top 50 Falcons: No. 34, Ray Buchanan
Ray Buchanan, Atlanta Falcons

Cornerback Ray Buchanan joined the Falcons in 1997 and stuck around for seven seasons. (AJC File)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is counting down the Top 50 players in Atlanta Falcons history during the franchise’s 50th anniversary season. No. 34 is cornerback Ray Buchanan.

Years played for Falcons: Ray Buchanan, who played his college ball at the University of Louisville and was a third round pick in the 1993 NFL draft., spent the first four years of his career in Indianapolis before joining Atlanta in 1997 and sticking with the Falcons for seven seasons until 2004. In 2004, he played his final season with the Oakland Raiders, finishing his career with 47 interceptions and four returned for touchdowns.

Ray Buchanan, Atlanta Falcons

Falcons’ Ray Buchanan, aka “Big Play Ray,” never shied away from the big stage and often times, stole the show. (AP)

Jersey No.: 34

His impact on the team: “Big Play Ray” never shied away from the big stage and often times, stole the show. His first season in Atlanta in ‘97, Buchanan picked off five passes. The next season he took his play to another level as he led the Falcons secondary with seven interceptions and helped propel Atlanta to a Super Bowl appearance. His play was rewarded by being selected as to the Pro Bowl and as an All-Pro. Buchanan’s All-Pro selection was his second, with his first coming as 23-year-old in Indianapolis when he intercepted eight passes and returned a league-high three for scores. Two years later Buchanan recorded six interceptions and two fumble recoveries, earning the team’s Player of the Year Award in 2000.

On the 1998 season: “Playing in that 1998 NFC Championship Game, winning that and knowing we were going to the Super Bowl is the biggest memory that will stick with me forever. Playing my part, everybody had to play a role and the chemistry that we had was truly special.”

On his sons playing football: “I tried to put tennis rackets in their hands. I put golf clubs in their hands … all the way down to water polo. I tried to get them to play every sport but football. I wanted them to do something different.”

Where he is now: Buchanan, now 44, lives in Atlanta with his wife, Beth, and her son Jordan (11). Along with Ray Jr. and Baylen, he has two daughters — Destinee (23) and Jade (13) — with his first wife, Sheree. Ray Jr. played high school football at Peachtree Ridge, graduating in 2012 and signed to play at Arkansas. Today he is a redshirt junior at Northern Iowa. Baylen is a senior cornerback at Peachtree Ridge and is an uncommitted three-star prospect.

The countdown to the Top 50 players in Falcons history runs through the end of the season.

Top 50 Falcons Countdown

50: Chuck Smith
49: Michael Haynes
48: Jonathan Babineaux
47: John Zook
46: Ken Reaves
45: Lynn Cain
44: Justin Blalock
43: Bobby Butler
42: Tim Mazzetti
41: Buddy Curry
40: Scott Case
39: Jeff Merrow
38: Elbert Shelley
37: Matt Bryant
36: Alge Crumpler
35: Michael Turner
34: Ray Buchanan

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